Archives

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

November 17, 2017
leave no trace

leave no traceOutdoorsmen have long touted the benefits of leaving the wild as you found it, often called Leave No Trace. No everyone is familiar with the seven principles of this outdoor eco-friendly philosophy and, admittedly, it can be a little confusing. If you’re new to the outdoors or would just like to leave a smaller carbon footprint, here’s what you need to know.

Plan Ahead and Prepare
You can avoid a lot of simple mistakes by simply planning ahead. Research the area you plan on visiting or camping in to learn the regulations and trails. If an emergency happens you’ll already know what to do to stay safe while also not harming your surroundings. The official Leave No Trace bullet points are as follows:

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Where you camp can have an impact on the environment. It’s important to stay on designated trails and campsites so as not to disturb the local wildlife and habitats. Durable surfaces like packed dirt at pre-formed camping areas, gravel or road are all acceptable.

  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when it’s wet or muddy.
  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly
Just because you’re out in the wild doesn’t mean you should act like an animal. Human waste, including stool, urine, food and water, can wreak havoc on the local habitat and displace animals from their homes. Whatever you bring in, take it back out when you leave whenever possible.

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in cat holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find
Along the same lines of taking your own belongings out with you, you should also leave what you find in the wild there where it belongs. Rocks, leaves and other objects can serve as homes and valuable protection for all means of wildlife. The area might also be historically significant or preserved. Avoid moving or removing anything you come across on your hikes.

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires pose one of the biggest threats to the natural environment—a small gust of wind can ignite and entire forest in the right conditions. That’s why it’s important stick with established areas for setting a fire when possible and switching to an electric option when not. Avoid starting a fire whenever possible to have the smallest impact on the environment.

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife 
One of the best parts of experiencing nature is getting up close and personal to all the beautiful creatures that live out there you wouldn’t normally see back home. However, getting too close can mean back with one less arm, or worse. Steer clear of any animals you come across outdoors. They’re just as awesome from a safe distance as they are up close and much less likely to attack.

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Finally, you can get the most out of the outdoors by respecting those around you. Treating others with respect can help you avoid uncomfortable situations out on the trail like arguments or acts of retribution. Keep the noise levels down and share campsites whenever possible.

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
Camp Tricks

How to Safely Sleep Without a Tent

November 15, 2017

Tents have been a camping staple since the dawn of the modern man – what better way to protect yourself in the wild from the nighttime critters, sudden downpours and voracious bugs than a miniature home you can carry with you on the go? Of course, for some people camping is a way to get outside, and enclosing oneself in another set of walls kind of defeats the purpose. So how can one safely camp outside without toting along a tent? It’s easy!

Use a Hammock
Perhaps the easiest method for eschewing a tent is to replace it with something a little less confining. A hammock is a great alternative to the traditional tent because it still provides much of the protection without removing the spectacular views of the night sky. All you need to make it work is a couple of sturdy trees or a hammock stand and you’ve got yourself a comfy bed designed for the wild.

Build a Perimeter
If you’re going to sleep in a hammock or simply rough it out on the ground you’ll need a warning system in place in case a large animal like a bear comes looking for food in the middle of the night. A good solution is to bring along some rope or string and use it to outline a perimeter around your campsite. Wrap it around tightly surrounding trees and then hang cans or bells around the length so, if an animal comes near, a makeshift alarm will sound to wake you up.

Use Bug Spray
Mosquitos and other creepy crawlers are a real problem if you’re camping in the summertime. Nobody wants to wake up covered in bites and potentially harboring an infectious disease. Cover yourself liberally with bug spray to help ward off the bugs while you sleep. Without the tent there to protect you, you open yourself up to hundreds of bugs looking for a midnight snack.

Clean Your Campsite
Whether you’re using a tent or not it’s always important to keep your campsite clean to deter hungry animals. Ensure there are no leftovers lying around and that you’ve cleaned any utensils thoroughly. Remove garbage from your sleeping area and hang any extra food from a tree at least 100 meters away from where you’ll be lying.

Eliminate Odors
The smell of food isn’t the only odor that’ll attract animals to your sleeping area – lotions, gels and candles can have the same effect. You don’t need to smell like California citrus while you’re hiking in the woods. Leave the scented deodorants and silly candles at home and stick with basic non-scented soaps when you camp.

Block the Weather
Staying dry is essential to a good night’s rest so if you know there’s a chance for torrential downpours, or just a light sprinkle, you might consider bringing along a tarp. Unlike a tent, a tarp will provide you with more exposure to the outdoors but still give you plenty of air to breath. Tie one above your body just before you call it a night to keep the rain from wrecking your sleep.

Put Out the Fire
Light can attract bears to a campsite, along with bugs, just as easily as food. Leaving your fire going at night is also a great way to start a forest fire. Make sure to douse your flames before turning in. If you’ve gone the electric route you’ll also need to turn off any lanterns or other light sources too. You don’t want to bring any attention to yourself while you sleep.

Camp Recipes

Recipe: Fire Roasted Salmon

November 3, 2017

©istockphoto/Jag_cz

After a long day of fishing out on the river, there’s nothing more satisfying than setting up camp and preparing to scarf down on a freshly prepared fish. Don’t settle for something bland when you can have a meal just as delicious as you’d make at home. With a little mustard and lemon you can fix up a simple roasted Salmon filet that’s sure to tickle your taste buds.

Ingredients
Salmon filets
2 sliced lemons
4 tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
4 tbsp. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Directions
To begin, season your salmon filets with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar and olive oil in a bowl. Pour the mixture into a baggie then add the salmon filets. Place in a cooler for at least two hours.

When you’re ready to cook the filets, place them on separate sheets of tin foil. Baste the tops of the filet with butter then place the minced garlic cloves and two slices of lemon on each one.

Next, wrap the filets in the tin foil and place them on top of a grill above the campfire. Alternatively, you can place the tin foil directly in the fire. Cook the filets for 3-4 minutes on each side, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Feel free to add additional herbs as desired.

Camp Games and Activities

7 Camping Games to Play With the Kids

October 8, 2017
kids camping

kids camping

Even in the Great Outdoors, with its endless array of wildlife and nature trails to discover, kids can lose interest quickly. That’s why it’s important to have a backup plan on hand when you’re heading out for a family camping trip. Help the kids enjoy the experience a little more by introducing some fun games for them to play using nature and other things you might have on hand.

Scavenger Hunt
A tried and true classic, the scavenger hunt never goes out of style. It’s an exciting way to get your kids to learn about nature by sending them out to discover all sorts of plants. The game is simple and straightforward. Sit down and make a list of the items you want to hunt down. If you’re unfamiliar with the area you’ll be camping in it might help to do a little research online to find out what sort of plants grow there. Give your kids the list and let them loose! Make sure to have a prize ready for the winner.

Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a fantastic game to play outdoors; with all the trees, fallen logs and bushes around there’s no shortage of places to hide. Make sure you set some ground rules in regards to distance so the kids don’t wander too far, otherwise you could get into trouble. Having them stay within sight of the camp should be good.

Flashlight Tag
Finding games to play after dark can be difficult in the woods. You don’t want the kids wandering too far off, but simply sitting around the campfire can get boring after a bit. Liven things up by playing a game of flashlight tag. Much like regular tag, the person who’s “it” will have to seek out an capture the other players. However, with flashlight tag this can be done at night by pointing the light on the person when they’re found.

Campfire Crafts
Craft time doesn’t always require a bin of markers and colored paper; you can find plenty of things to glue together out in the woods. Have the kids go around collecting twigs, stones, leaves and other plant life to see what they can create. Come up with different categories like “Best Rock Monster” and let the tykes go to town and try and come up with the most creative and elaborate constructions.

Campfire Storytelling Chain
Most campfire stories rely on a single storyteller weaving an intricate tale of suspense and horror to scare the crowd. How about making it a group effort, instead? Begin the chain by designating one person to start the story. He’ll deliver the first line in order to set the scene and the mood, then the next person in the circle continues it. This goes on and on until you’ve created a terrifying new story out of thin air.

Sleeping Bag Race
The sleeping bag race is popular at summer camps all around the country. There’s no reason you can’t use it on your own family camping trip. How it works is everyone pulls their sleeping back up around their waist, then tries to hop or run and beat the other racers to the finish line. To spice things up a bit you can turn it into an obstacle course with racers weaving in and out of trees and trying to climb over fallen logs.

Campfire Relay
For a really challenging competition try convincing your kids to participate in a campfire relay. Start by setting up all the supplies needed to build a campfire (wood, paper, rocks, etc.) at one end of the campsite and have the competitors stand at the opposite side. When you say “Go!” the racers will speed to the supplies then bring them back to the center of the site and try and start a fire. The first one to successfully build a campfire wins.

Camp Tricks

7 Hacks for Camping in the Rain

July 19, 2017

©istockphoto/Maridav

Nothing ruins a good hike like a sudden downpour. Rainstorms are always a risk when camping, especially in the spring and late summer, but that doesn’t mean your trip has to end when a little water falls from the sky. Here are some hacks to help you enjoy your camping or backpacking trip, rain or shine.

Pack Kindling
Rather than trudge through the rain and attempt to find a few twigs that haven’t been drenched, try packing your kindling before you leave. This way you’ll keep it dry in your pack and won’t have to struggle to make fire. If that doesn’t work for you, pack a bag of Doritos instead. They’re highly flammable.

Cuddle Your Clothes
The best way to keep your clothes dry and warm is to sleep with them. Slip them into your sleeping bag at night and cuddle up next to tomorrow’s shirts, socks and underwear to keep them out of the cold and toasty for the next morning. They’ll draw heat from your body and the bag will keep everything insulated so it won’t escape.

Sleep in a Hammock
Setting up a tent on a soggy patch of ground is never a fun task. It’s even worse in the morning when you have to clean up mud and dirt off the bottom before you can pack up. Avoid this by using a hammock while you camp instead. Attach it to a couple of sturdy branches and you’ll be safe and dry above the ground. Just remember to put up a tarp overhead first.

Bring Trash Bags
Trash bags are the ultimate camping resource. They can be used to keep your clothes dry or as a makeshift poncho in a pinch. Most importantly they’re great as impromptu pads to sleep on. Just pack a trash bag with surrounding moss, leaves and other soft plants (or even mud) and you’ve got yourself a cheap DIY sleeping pad that’ll keep your backside dry and comfy in the dreary weather.

Shellac Your Matches
If you’re the type to keep things old school when you camp and still try to light fires with matches you’ll want to keep them dry as possible. Or, you could just cover them with shellac or clear polish. It’s perfectly safe to coat your matches with the gooey resin and they’ll still light up when you strike them. Best of all, water basically rolls right off of it.

Camp in a Clearing
While it might seem smart to pitch your tent under a tree in order to mitigate the amount of rainfall on your roof, you’re actually more likely to get soaked this way. The buildup of rain in the leaves comes down more heavily beneath a tree so you’re better off setting up camp in a clearing. You’re going to get wet either way, so you might as well get a decent view out of it.

Bring a Sponge
If there’s one thing that holds true no matter where you camp in the rain, it’s that water is going to find its way in. Whether you spring a leak or just end up tracking some in on your clothes, rain has a nasty habit of sneaking inside the tent and dampening your gear. Rather than wiping it up and leaving damp towels lying around the campsite, which take forever to try, bring along a sponge. You can find a cheap one at the dollar store nearest you and they mop up water like nobody’s business. Once you’re done, give them a quick squeeze and they dry out within an hour.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

8 of America’s Best Summer Swimming Holes

July 10, 2017

The summer heat can be downright oppressive. Scoping out the nearest swimming holes for you and your family is one of the best things you can do. Forget about crowded public pools and venture out into nature, where you’ll find an abundance of beautiful lakes, creeks and rivers to wade into. Here are some of the best natural swimming holes in the country.

Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dsoltesz/

Santa Rosa is often deemed the City of Natural Lakes. The region is chock full of pristine swimming holes to choose from, but one stands out from the rest. Blue Hole is a spring-fed natural pool of water that runs roughly 80 feet deep. Water temperatures stay around 64 degrees all year long, so you don’t have to stick to summer if you want to take a dip. Divers come to this desert location often to see what’s lurking beneath the surface.


Beaver Falls, Havasu Creek Waterfalls, Arizona

©istockphoto/FliProductions

Six miles downstream from the village of Supai lies one of the most picturesque swimming holes in the nation. Beaver Falls, part of the Havasu Creek Waterfalls, lies smack dab in the middle of the Grand Canyon. It provides some fairly epic views of the surrounding landscape as well as plenty of seclusion. Getting there requires quite the hike in, but the turquoise waters and stunning falls make it well worth the effort.


Sliding Rock, North Carolina

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kmoliver/

Sliding Rock might not be the warmest body of water on the list, but it does provide the most fun. This family friendly attraction is a 60-foot-long slab of rock that forms the perfect natural waterslide. The ride down is quite an epic adventure, though you and the kids might be waiting in line a little while to try it out. The rocky slide deposits you right into a cool lake of water at the bottom, in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest.


Cummins Falls, Tennessee

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikerhicks/

Cummins Falls is a true treasure located deep within the heart of Jackson County that provides some spectacular views and a great dipping spot for the kids. It’s the eighth largest waterfall in the state of Tennessee with a cascading array of water providing the perfect backdrop against a pool of warm water. You’ll have to hike a ways in to reach it, but the views of the surrounding Blackburn Fork State Scenic River are some of the best the American South has to offer.


Aztec Falls, California

https://www.flickr.com/photos/russellbrennan/

The Aztec Falls are a natural wonder hidden deep within the San Bernardino Mountains, just a few hours outside of Los Angeles. Wind your way along a six-mile loop located just off the Pacific Crest Trail and you’ll come across a beautiful swimming hole made of high cliffs and astonishingly deep waters. If you’re the adventurous type you’ll really enjoy the jumps; the cliffs run up to 60 feet high around the water and are great for those into taking risks.


Redfish Lake, Stanley, Idaho

©istockphoto/vkbhat

A rugged trip into the backcountry will often lead to the most promising natural wonders. That’s certainly true with Redfish Lake. Located just outside the town of Stanley, this beautiful piece of untouched wilderness was once a prominent swimming ground for so many sockeye salmon that it supposedly turned the lake red. Nowadays birds and people willing to make the trek to reach it mostly populate the area. Imagine swimming in crystal clear waters with awe-inspiring reflections of the snowcapped Sawtooth Range glistening back at you, surrounded by peregrine falcons and ruby-crowned kinglets. That’s Redfish Lake.


Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, Missouri

https://www.flickr.com/photos/toolman6598/

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park serves as a prime swimming hole for the entire state of Missouri and is touted as the unofficial state water park. It’s crowded for sure, but still tons of fun for adults and kids. The East Fork of the Black River converges on a slim channel of rock formations at Johnson’s Shut-Ins, creating a series of small swimming pools to splash in. The joy lies in trying to hop from eddy to eddy without getting wiped out. It’s perfectly safe to slide around on the volcanic stone while staying cool.


Echo Lake, Franconia State Park, New Hampshire

©istockphoto/nancykennedy

The 39-acre Echo Lake provides ample opportunity for families to enjoy their own little patch of water along the Franconia Range. The lake is nestled right where the Franconia Range and Kinsman Range meet, creating a notch enclosed by the slopes of the Cannon Mountain ski area. The views are extraordinary and the shores are lined with sand, making them perfect for weekend getaways and building sandcastles.

Camp Tricks

Fire Safety Tips for Spring Camping

June 26, 2017

Spring is here, which means it’s time to head into the woods for some family outings by the campfire. It also means the ground cover is drying out and it’s warm enough for that fire to get out of control if you’re not careful. Here are some fire safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe this season.

Build a Pit
Keeping a fire contained is the most important part of building one at your site. You want enough room for the fire without wayward flames sparking a forest fire. Dig a fire pit to create a natural barrier that will contain your campfire. A hole in the ground away from the trees and brush will go a long way in keeping the fire from spreading. Surround the edges of the pit with stones if available.

Clear Debris
It’s important to clear your campsite of debris. Move sticks, leaves and fallen brush away from the flames, at least five feet but preferably more than eight, to make sure they don’t catch fire from blowing embers. Similarly, don’t build a fire underneath a hanging branch. Also remove any pressurized containers or flammable items you brought with you away from the campfire.

Buy a Fire Pit
If you’re not comfortable making your own fire pit, or just want to save yourself the hassle, consider buying a portable one instead. A solid propane fire pit is a great way to heat a campsite without creating a mess of smoke and embers that could set the place ablaze. Many of them come with a regulator to help control the heat and flames, making your job a cinch.

Keep Water on Hand
The leaves might be new but that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire in an instant, so always keep water on hand to douse the flames. A couple of jugs or buckets of H20 should be reserved for the campfire. Just be sure not to pour anything like alcohol on the flames, unless you want the fire to burst out of control.

Extinguish it Before Bed
Absolutely do not leave the fire burning when you go to bed. This is the quickest way to start a forest fire because even the smallest of embers left burning can get blown into the woods, or dry leaves can get blown into the pit. If the fire reignites while you’re asleep in your tent the smoke and flames could overwhelm you before you realize what’s happening. Douse the flames in water and spread the ashes with a stick to make sure nothing is left burning. Remember that if you’re using coals they can stay warm for up to 24 hours.

Stack Your Wood Upwind
Prepare for unexpected gusts by stacking your spare wood upwind. Twigs and brush left lying near the fire can easily ignite when embers are blown into them, so avoid this by keeping combustibles out of the path. Always stack extra firewood upwind so the embers can’t catch it. Never build a campfire on a very windy day.

Avoid Flammable Liquid
Lighter fluids and gasoline should only be used on propane tanks and grills specifically designated for their use, not campfires. Adding liquids like these to the fire can cause it to quickly spiral out of control, putting you and wildlife in danger. Use kindling and crumpled paper instead. If you’re unable to build a fire the natural way, consider eschewing an open flame.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

Great Camping Spots Around the U.S. for Seasonal Allergy Sufferers

June 19, 2017

Living with seasonal allergies is no fun. But it can be especially excruciating for people who love the outdoors.

Camping isn’t quite as enjoyable dealing with blistering headaches and the inability to breathe through your nose. There are, however, some safe havens across the U.S. for those looking to avoid high pollen counts.


Lake Michigan | ©istockphoto/ehrlif

The Midwest
The Midwest is admittedly one of the worst places in the United States for camping when you have seasonal allergies. The pollen counts here tend to be off the charts. If you live in this region and need something close to home, there is one place you might try.

Lake Michigan is the closest thing the Midwest has to a real beach, which means it’s also one of the best options for camping with allergies. With any luck, the water will pull the pollen down and keep it from reaching your nose. Pitch your tent downwind.


Florida Beach | ©istockphoto/cdwheatley

The South
The American South isn’t well known for its friendliness toward allergy sufferers, thanks to high amounts of pollen and low elevations. However, the further south you head the better your chances of finding a little reprieve.

The Florida coastline is a haven for seasonal allergy sufferers throughout much of the year, thanks to low pollen counts and the ocean breeze pulling out potential threats. It’s not perfect, but there are a lot of options to choose from. Grayton Beach State Park is a wonderful place to visit during the winter. It’s still warm while the rest of the country is freezing, but pollen counts are low.


Adirondacks | ©istockphoto/AnthonyPaladino

The Northeast
We won’t blow smoke and pretend that spring and summer camping is going to be comfortable in the Northeast if you have allergies. In fact, the best time to camp out here might be the dead of winter.

One of the best places to camp is right in the heart of the Adirondacks in Olde Forge, New York. The Olde Forge Camping Resort lies right on Lake Serene and offers up spectacular views and epic snowmobiling in the winter, plus it’s allergy free and open all year.


Telluride | ©istockphoto/shaferaphoto

Out West
Your best chance at avoiding seasonal allergies is to head west. High elevations and dry landscapes make for low pollen counts and astounding views. The region is large enough that there’s no shortage of great camping spots.

Telluride has one of the highest elevations in the U.S., so of course it’s going to have less allergens floating through the air. During the summer there’s possibly no better place to hunker down in a tent and enjoy the breeze. Sunshine and Priest Gulch are great options that aren’t too far from town.

Palm Springs | ©istockphoto/Wildroze

Another great option is Palm Springs, California. The town is surrounded primarily by rocky terrain, making it the perfect getaway for those combating allergies. The pollen count is generally low, except for when the winter grass is switched out in the spring, but stick to the rocky areas near Joshua Tree and you should be able to sleep peacefully under the stars.

Arizona also has one of the lowest ragweed and pollen counts in the country, and right outside of Tucson lies the perfect place for a weekend getaway: Saguaro National Park. There isn’t much in the way of greenery, unless you count the cacti, but the landscape is still pretty breathtaking and makes for a unique trip.

Saguaro National Park | ©istockphoto/KenCanning

For more information on local pollen counts be sure to check out the the website for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Other Outdoorsy Stuff

9 Tips for Hiking With Seasonal Allergies

June 14, 2017
©istockphoto/pixelfit

©istockphoto/pixelfit

Seasonal allergies aren’t an excuse to stay indoors. Sniffling, sneezing and swollen glands can put a damper on your trip, but there are ways to head them off. If you’re worried about how pollen might affect your hiking trips, here are a few ways you can help calm those sneezing fits.

Know the Pollen Count
Pollen counts are routinely added to weather forecasts so as long as you do your homework you can avoid hiking on days that’ll seriously affect your allergies. Aim for low pollen counts that tend to come with cloudy, rainy days. It sounds a little gloomy, but you can still get in a great hike without the sun.

Know Your Allergen
You’re probably aware of what causes your nose to congest during the spring, but do you know what it looks like in the wild? Do your research and study your allergens so you can spot them before they knock you on your butt. There are many books available that detail plants found on most hikes, so head to your local bookstore, outdoor retailer or online for a guide with allergen information.

Time it Right
Different allergens tend to pollenate at varying points throughout the day. For instance, trees pollenate during dusk and dawn, so if that’s your weak point head out during the middle of the day. Grass, on the other hand, pollenates in the afternoon so those with grass allergies might be better off hiking in the morning.

Keep it Short
The more strenuous the activity, the harder you’ll breathe, which means the more likely you are to take allergens into your lungs. Keep your hikes short on days when the pollen count is particularly high to help avoid setting your allergies off.

Wear a Mask
You’re probably going to look a little goofy doing it, but wearing a mask is a great way to keep allergens from reaching your face. The eyes, nose and mouth are most susceptible to allergens so protecting them while on a hike can help you get through the day without an attack. If you don’t want to wear a face mask, a Buff or a bandana tied around the lower half of your face, paired with sunglasses, is a good alternative.

Medicate
While some folks are apprehensive about relying on drugs to keep their allergies at bay, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors you might not have a choice. Speak with your doctor about which medications are safest and most effective. Downing a few pills every now and then is a small price to pay in order to enjoy the outdoors. 

Hike Rocky Terrain
Most outdoor allergens are found below tree line, so consider keeping your hikes high above sea level. Rocky terrain is the optimal choice for those suffering from seasonal allergies. Desert landscapes are also a great escape from pollen and other triggers, so set up your tent someplace where you won’t be surrounded by greenery.

Bathe Nightly
If you’re taking an extended hike lasting more than one day, be sure to bathe after a day on the trail. Pollen tends to collect on clothes and in your hair so falling asleep without washing off will inundate your system with harmful allergens. Clean off and start the new day fresh and allergy free.

Camp Downwind (From Water)
If you find yourself camping near a lake try to pitch your tent downstream, when the wind picks up there’s a good chance the water will collect any pollens floating overtop, which could keep them from reaching you. Otherwise it would be wise to try the opposite of this: camp upwind from any large green areas so that you get the fresh wind before it hits the plants.

Camp Games and Activities

7 Father’s Day Activities for Dads with Young Kids

June 2, 2017

©istockphoto/shironosov

Father’s Day is about celebrating a man’s relationship with his children, and what better way to do that than by spending a little one-on-one time with them? If you’re looking for ways to solidify that father-child bond with the little ones this holiday, here are a few ideas for activities that everyone will enjoy.

Start a Camping Tradition
Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to get your kids acquainted with Mother Nature, if you haven’t already done so. Start your own tradition by taking the little tykes out into the woods and pitching a tent. It’s a great way to teach them a few handy life lessons along the way, like wilderness survival kills and how to build a fire. Set aside some time for hiking, have them help you set up camp, and then share stories about your childhood with them around the fire that night.

Fish for Dinner
Fathers have been teaching their sons and daughters to fish since the dawn of time, so why not give it a shot this year? Granted, some children aren’t too keen on sitting still for that long so you might have to include ways to make it a little more exciting than usual. Rent a boat or canoe and hit the lake, or make a game out of who can catch the biggest fish. Let the kids have fun and splash in the water, regardless of whether it might scare off the fish.

Build Something
There’s nothing like little hard work to bring people together, so try building something with your kids to spark their imagination. Have you been thinking about putting a new table out on the back deck? Sit down and design one with the tots. They can help with the simple steps, like painting, and if they’re old enough, nailing a few things together. You can also build picture frames, shelves or chairs if you feel those are more in line with your kids’ skills.

Pan for Gold
If you live near a riverbank or don’t mind making a trip, gold panning is a great option for spending time with the kids. A simple kit doesn’t cost a lot and can keep everyone entertained for hours. You don’t have to stop with just looking for gold; rocks will do just as well. Your kids will have a blast splashing through water and digging for buried treasure while you join in.

Explore a Cavern
Few things spark a child’s imagination as effectively as a dark and spooky cavern. Take your kids to the nearest hole in the ground and let them explore the world of bats and stalagmites. It’s a great time to work on your storytelling skills while you fantasize about mythical worlds full of vampires and other creepy creatures. Your kids will have a great time poking around dark corners and you might even learn a thing or two while you’re there.

Go Golfing
Father’s Day is the perfect time to work on your golf game and get your kids started early on loving the sport. Depending on their age, you might have to resort to mini-golf, but that’s still pretty fun. Help them perfect their swing or just use them as a caddy, whatever works best. It’s a great opportunity to bond with your child and maybe catch up on what’s happening in their lives.

Visit a Museum or Historical Site
Kids love to learn about new things and that’s why museums and historical sites like battlefields are great choices for a Father’s Day trip. There’s usually enough to see and do to keep the little ones from getting bored, and you’ll make them smarter in the process. It’s a win-win. Anything with dinosaurs would be a definite plus.

Camp Tricks

How Camping Can Give You A Better Night’s Rest

May 31, 2017
©istockphoto/Sproetniek

©istockphoto/Sproetniek

Our busy schedules make it difficult to maintain a healthy sleep cycle, but it turns out that camping can help you reset that internal clock. Researchers have found that spending a few days in the great outdoors can sync your body back up with its natural rhythm.

Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor at the University of Colorado, conducted a study in 2013 to determine the effect nature plays in humans’ natural circadian clocks and our ability to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The findings were fascinating, with subjects proving that in just one week being out in nature on a consistent basis, humans could revert back to the way our bodies were designed based on the rising and setting of the sun.

More recently, Wright set out again to discover if just a weekend could also jumpstart this “reset.” It turns out it can.

What is a sleep cycle?
The circadian clock is the internal clock inside our bodies that signals to our brain when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. The process if controlled mostly by melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, which tells us when to be tired.

While we’re able to ingest melatonin orally through supplements and food, most of it comes from our exposure to natural light. For someone with a healthy sleep cycle melatonin levels typically rise in the evening before bedtime and lower in the morning when it’s time to get up and go to work.

However, because of our modern culture of staying up late and working odd hours, many people have melatonin levels that are off balance. Watching electronics like television and staring at a phone screen can also throw off a person’s sleep cycle.

How does camping fix our cycle?
Melatonin relies heavily upon proper exposure to natural light, and camping is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase sun exposure. Camping forces you outdoors, away from those four walls that block out the light, helping us to reset our clocks.

Researchers found that just two days of pro-longed exposure to the outdoors can help stabilize our circadian rhythm by naturally regulating the level of melatonin being released into the brain. Away from all the accouterments of modern society, like television, smartphones and weekends at the bar, we’re more likely to fall asleep based upon the setting of the sun.

Our internal clock is capable of changing at a remarkable rate once we’re away from modern day distractions.

Why does it matter?
People with regular sleep cycles are likely to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Our internal clock plays a huge role in our ability to get through the day. It affects our tiredness and our mood, making the day a breeze or excruciating to get through without coffee or a nap. Someone on a natural sleep cycle is capable of getting through the night more restfully, without interruptions, and therefore more likely to feel less groggy over the course of the day.

How to make it work.
Simply heading outdoors for the weekend might not be enough to reset your body’s clock. That’s because modern campers have developed a habit of bringing along many of the toys from home that negatively affect our sleep cycle.

On your next camping trip leave the iPad at home and focus on being one with nature. Ban electronics whenever possible and try to let the sunlight dictate your plans. You might also want to avoid alcohol on your next camping trip, as drinking often leads people to staying up way past when our bodies tell us it’s time for bed.

Of course, when you return home from your camping excursion you might have to make some changes in order for the reset button to stick. Just as a weekend in the woods can quickly alter our internal clocks, so can a couple of nights spent up late in front of the computer checking e-mails.

Try to maintain the habit of cutting off electronics before bed, and when the sun goes down, start prepping yourself for sleep by avoiding food and TV. If you get into the practice of sleeping at a more natural time you might find yourself enjoying your life just a little more.

Camp Tricks

6 Tips for Camping in the Snow

February 27, 2017
©istockphoto/DusanManic

©istockphoto/DusanManic

Winter isn’t quite over yet, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait to go camping. It’s the time to whip out the parka and hand warmers. If you’re going to hit the trail this winter, remember to keep these tips in mind for a safe, fun experience.

Don’t Eat the Snow
This seems a tad silly to have to say, but if you’re new to camping you might not be aware that chowing down on cold snow is a big no-no. That’s because consuming something that cold can help cool your body down too quickly, resulting in a shock to your system. Instead, if you just can’t resist the urge or find yourself in need of refreshment, place the snow in a pot over the fire and turn it into warm water first.

Watch Your Fire
A lot of people switch to portable heaters during the winter because they view creating a fire in the snow too much of a hassle. It can be done, however, and if you’re going to go that route be sure to keep an eye on your flames. There will likely be enough dry wood and leaves around to unexpectedly catch fire, and you don’t want your campsite to go up in flames.

Don’t Hike in Low Visibility
A blustery snowstorm is difficult to camp in, and even more difficult to navigate during a hike. If the white stuff is falling down heavily enough to impede your view, then be sure to stay put until it clears. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in a white out and just as hard for emergency crews to find you in an emergency. Don’t be afraid to wait it out in your tent if need be.

Have the Right Gear
This should go without saying, but the gear you need to have on hand while camping during the winter is fairly different from what you might normally take into the woods. Be sure to dress in layers, bundle up safely at night and keep some hand warmers nearby. Trekking poles are also a great way to help you trudge through the mounds of white stuff around the campsite.

Change Your Clothes Often
One of the biggest challenges with camping in the snow is keeping yourself dry. Moisture can lead to plenty of issues out on the trail, including frostbite and hypothermia. Your first line of defense is wearing the appropriate gear and being sure to keep it as dry as possible. Be sure to hang your clothes nightly (inside your tent!) and never sleep in the same thing you hiked in that day. A lot of people have their own pair of camping pajamas, which is totally acceptable. If you have a heater that’s safe to have inside the tent with you that can help with drying your clothes and gear overnight.

Pack Light
One of the most common mistakes new campers make is assuming that they should have more on hand during the winter in case of emergency. If you’re packing properly, you should actually have less. Camping in the snow, getting to your campsite in particular, is rough on the body because of the added resistance on the ground. Don’t overdo it when filling your backpack. Dry your clothes during the night rather changing daily and you’ll be able to get by with less in your bag.